An attack on Turkey’s vessels in EastMed will have ‘heavy price’, says Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking at the 19th anniversary celebrations of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said Turkey’s efforts for hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean should not be intervened with.

“Do not attack our Oruç Reis,” Erdoğan said. “If you do, you will pay a heavy price for it.”

In late July, Turkey sent the hydrocarbon exploration vessel Oruç Reis to Kastellorizo, a small Greek island at 2 km distance from Turkey’s southern shores, escorted by warships. Exploration efforts were suspended later, in a bid to de-escalate climbing tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

The island has become a flashpoint between Turkey and Greece in the dispute over territorial waters and economic rights to resources in the Mediterranean.

On Friday, following a maritime agreement between Greece and Egypt, the Turkish president announced the resumption of Turkey’s exploration efforts.

“They have attacked us from all sides with everything they got their hands on,” Erdoğan said. “Now we are entering a much harsher, much more sinister struggle both domestically and abroad.”

Not specifying who he referred to, Erdoğan cited the 2013 corruption probe and anti-government protests, as well as the period of renewed conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) following the collapse of a peace process in 2015. “They let loose (all terrorists) on us,” he said, implying that the same forces were behind the Eastern Mediterranean dispute.

“I call the period from 2013 to present day the Period of Struggle,” Erdoğan said, “which has cost our country dearly.”

AKP’s “long and hard process for our country and our nation” is at a critical stage, he added.

Erdoğan announced his plans to go to Ahlat, the first major Turkish settlement in Anatolia, on Aug. 25.

“Sultan Alparslan had spent the night there. We will be there too,” he said, referring to the Seljuk sultan who fought the Byzantine empire in the 1071 Battle of Manzikert that Turkish history considers to have opened the gates of Anatolia to Turks. The president will be in Manzikert on Aug. 26, the anniversary of the battle – the latest symbolic gesture in a string of many, preceded by the conversion of the Greek Orthodox cathedral Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.